Got Matar
Got Matar, meaning Bare Hilltop, is an area of dispersed rural settlements in the Sub-County of Bondo in Siaya County in the west of Kenya, near to Lake Victoria. The area is amongst the poorest in Kenya and suffered the highest level of HIV infection in all of Kenya around the turn of the century. AIDS killed off many of the community’s working age population and left over one third of the children living as orphans.
See 'Two Pandemics'

The Got Matar Community Development Group (GMCDG) was formed by local leaders in January 2002 to respond to the crisis. The Group accepted that they had ‘lost a generation’ and that the priority was to assure that their children could all enjoy a decent education.  They first improved conditions in the 10 Primary Schools, then built a Secondary School with 600 places, and are now well advanced in the creation of an Institute of Technology that offers diploma courses in a range of practical skills.

The Secondary School
The decision to build the Secondary School and to seek donor funding for this was taken by the GMCDG in September 2006. By the end of January 2007, the first classroom block had been built and furnished, teachers had been recruited and 112 children had been enrolled in Form 1. All the essential classroom buildings were completed on schedule and within budget by 2010, the year in which the first pupils graduated.

The management of the school was passed by the Community to the Department of Education which meets most running costs and employs the staff. Until now external donors have continued to finance a GMCDG-managed programme of bursaries and scholarships to enable children from poor families to attend the school. This will be phased out and replaced by a locally financed programme, funded mainly by former alumni. The School has an excellent performance record and reputation. It now has 1240 enrolled pupils and, with a current annual intake rate of 400 pupils, extra classrooms and ancillary facilities are desperately needed. GMCDG has accepted the School's request for help in raising external funds for part of this expansion and is exploring potential new sources of finance for this.

The Institute of Technology
From the outset, it was envisaged that the Secondary School should offer some training courses in practical skills, but this could not be fitted into the standard curriculum. In 2012, when the financing needs of the Secondary School began to fall, the Community opened a 2-year diploma course in dressmaking and tailoring and began the registration of the Got Matar Institute of Technology (IoT) as a financially sustainable community-managed institution. Since then, 11 more courses have been added to respond to local demand.

In order to allow the IoT to grow quickly and to reduce risks, all courses were initially run in rented buildings. Since 2017, the IoT has been constructing and equipping purpose-built training workshops on its campus on land provided by the Community. Ten new workshops have been completed and 2 more will soon be opened. The splendid new computer training centre was opened in January 2022 and two phases of a girls' hostel have been opened and are fully occupied by 80 boarders. Because of COVID restrictions, IoT diploma course student numbers stalled in 2021 at 230 but have risen to 333 on 2023, of whom 230 are girls.

The origins of external financial assistance to Got Matar date from Andrew MacMillan’s first visit to Bondo in 2000 in connection with his work with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Once GMCDG had been set up, he and his extended family made occasional donations towards upgrading the Primary Schools. In 2006, after his retirement, he accepted the Community’s formal invitation to raise funds for its educational programmes. Rather than set up a new charity, he sought to engage in partnerships for the management of donations with existing registered NGOs with similar goals. Following a fruitful initial partnership with PEAS (Promoting Education in African Schools), which has now built 30 secondary schools in Uganda and 4 in Zambia, we entered into an agreement in 2012 with Ace Africa (UK) as our partner registered charity. It administers funds collected from donors in the UK and elsewhere and transfers them to GMCDG through Ace Africa (Kenya) which operates an impressive community support programme in Western Kenya, including the area around Got Matar. Their staff have been most helpful in sharing their experiences with GMCDG and have assisted in improving its management systems.

GMCDG and I are enormously grateful to Vanda Altarelli for her constant support through Associazione SONIA which has served us very well from the start as our registered charity partner in Italy and the Euro Zone. Vanda set up SONIA in memory of her daughter who died young in a car crash. She has run SONIA largely single-handedly, devoting her whole life and immense energy to opening up and funding projects aimed at helping very poor and marginalised communities, spread across all continents, to achieve their aspirations for better lives - as had been the case in Got Matar. We thank her for 'taking us under her wing', for her inspiration, wise guidance and immense generosity. With Vanda's own ability to travel and engage with projects becoming increasingly constrained, SONIA is now engaged in a process of transformation which will prevent it from continuing to serve GMCDG's needs as partner charity.

In order to assure Euro Zone donors that their gifts to Got Matar will continue to be competently managed, duly issued with receipts and promptly transferred to GMCDG, Salvatore Fabrizio has kindly agreed that the NGO that he founded to support projects in Kenya will, as of now, take over as GMCDG's Euro Zone partner registered charity. Popi, as he is known by everyone, set up Karibu Associazione ONLUS as an Italian registered charity 16 years ago years ago to transform the livelihood prospects facing young people on a very deprived rural community, lying inland from the tourist beaches of Malindi on Kenya's coastal zone. I met him at that time and twice during this year, but in the intervening years have been in frequent contact. During these years Popi has devoted most of his time and energy to pursuing this goal with great persistence and often in the face of huge challenges. For those who understand Italian, I recommend you read his own account of his journey at Let me just thank him for his willingness to help Got Matar when it needs a new partner charity.

To read about how to send donations to Got Matar, please read the revised section on Making Donations: